Center for Innovation Goes Global with EB-5 Status


Sean Lee

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


Rodrigo Cintra is not your typical businessman. He is from Brazil and finds opportunity where others overlook, which is largely why he’s stayed in North Dakota.

Where most see us as a state with a predominantly rural population spread out among a tremendous amount of space, Cintra sees opportunity.

“From 1990 up to now, EB-5 has attracted about $3 billion in foreign direct investments,” Cintra said. “Just multiply that by the number of jobs created in the US.”

As the manager for the newly acquired EB-5 regional center at the Center for Innovation Foundation , Cintra has plans to be bigger and better. “We connect foreign investors with companies in this region to create growth,” said Cintra.

The center, located on the western edge of The University of North Dakota campus contains state-of-the-art incubator facilities and business experts to help any entrepreneurial organization grow.

The challenge

Drawing in investors can be a challenge for any business. “The Center for Innovation focuses on three elements: innovation, entrepreneurship and investment,” said Foundation CEO Bruce Gjovig. “We help the entrepreneurs figure out how to gain a competitive advantage.”

By connecting investors to entrepreneurs, the Center for Innovation helps spur growth within the entire state of North Dakota as well as northwestern Minnesota. “All of our projects are pre-screened,” said Cintra. “This makes it safer for the investor and easier for the entrepreneur.”

International attention

Now, the mission of the Center for Innovation Foundation can spread worldwide, thanks to a new status granted by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.)

An EB-5 regional center, such as the Center for Innovation Foundation, can assist a foreign investor who applies for permanent residency in the United States, provided a certain level of investment has been made.

Basically, the Center will provide another strong incentive to invest in North Dakota.

“The rural areas of North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota would greatly benefit from foreign direct investment and the creation of new jobs,” said Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad, in a joint letter of support. “The UND Center for Innovation Foundation is uniquely qualified to be designated as an EB-5 Regional Center as one of the leading entrepreneur centers in the nation.”

Approval from the USCIS took over a year and “over 300 pages of documentation,” Gjovig said.

Although the investment comes from overseas, the financial impact stays within America. “Think of it as foreign money for American jobs,” said Gjovig. “One of the main reasons the [EB-5] program was established was to promote economic development and create jobs.”

“Jobs must be created for, and fulfilled by, Americans,” said Cintra.

Investment through and EB-5 is beneficial to the investor, client and the center because of mutual accountability. “The government is more confidant when an investor is working with a regional center,” Gjovig said. “We become the facilitator, providing oversight.”


“I think this EB-5 program will grow beyond what we can envision,” said Cintra. “It will definitely outgrow the people that are involved now.”

“We expect 4 to 5 companies to be receiving money from foreign investors within the next year,” Gjovig said. “Each company might have between one and five investors tied to them.”

“That’s millions of dollars in investment,” Cintra said. “At least in the beginning.” He added, “Besides their investment, these successful international investors will also bring their talent, expertise and families to the United States adding greatly to our country, and to our university.”